By GREG EHLERS
Throughout my campaign for state senate, I have shared with Norwalk families the story of the two Senator Bob Duff’s when it comes to education.
First, there is the “good old boy” Bob Duff that has allowed him to win state senate elections with overwhelming margins thanks to his being involved with Norwalk politics for almost his entire life. This Bob Duff claps for your kids at school graduations, poses for pictures with your children’s teachers, and tells Norwalkers every two years that he “stand up” for Norwalk schools.
In recent years, families have started to learn about a second Bob Duff that lives in Hartford. This Bob Duff votes as a rank-and-file supporter of Gov. Dan Malloy’s and rose to become Senate Majority Leader of the state that is routinely ranked among the worst fiscally-managed states in the country. This Bob Duff raises your taxes, does Governor Malloy’s bidding, and calls the countless jobs, capital, and people that leave Connecticut every year our “new economic reality.”
— Greg Ehlers’ campaign website
— Bob Duff’s campaign website
Teachers, parents, and students in Norwalk and Darien were outraged to have also found out that this Bob Duff stood up for Governor Malloy and his quest to slash tens of millions of dollars of local education aid in the 2017 budget. Senator Duff made a real and serious choice to sign off on these cuts in order to cover other Malloy spending priorities. He was hoping voters in Norwalk would either not hear about it or not care about it, but Norwalkers have a right to know how poorly their representation has served them.
First, the budget includes a $32.2 million cut to the Education Cost Sharing grant. This means that if your son or daughter attends a public school in either Norwalk or Darien, their school will have significantly less funding than last year. I’m willing to bet that if you are a parent, then your child has been directly and negatively affected by these cuts. And keep in mind, this is our tax money that we’re talking about, you send this money to the state of Connecticut every year with the expectation that some of it will be spent on your children’s educations. Senator Duff must answer to parents and teachers in the 25th district why he was on Governor Malloy’s side and not theirs.
In addition to the massive cuts to Education Cost Sharing, the budget also slashes $23.3 million to transportation for school children. Another notable and especially unfortunate Malloy/Duff cut is the elimination $4.3 million from Special Education programs. This is particularly sad because these children are the most in need of professionals who can give them extra attention and help make their school experience as positive as possible.
Folks, Senator Duff had every opportunity to stand up to Governor Malloy and say “enough is enough.” He could have put politics aside and defiantly teamed up with Republican senators from neighboring towns like Sen. Toni Boucher or Sen. Tony Hwang in an effort to save Fairfield County from these draconian cuts to schools and special ed programs. Unfortunately for Norwalk, the power-hungry, Malloy-supporting Duff was there and threw his district under the bus in order to help the Governor.
Fiscal responsibility is a central theme of my campaign for state senate. It is a common misconception that fiscal responsibility means dramatic budget cuts and sweeping privatizations. The Ehlers brand of fiscal responsibility is about spending smarter not just spending less. Education is a core function of government that should never be subject to budget cuts, no matter how poorly managed our state is. Do not punish teachers, parents, and students for years of bad fiscal policy.
I have different solutions to our state’s fiscal misery. These solutions include the long-term changes to the budget that need to happen. I have called for requiring a vote on union contracts. I also want to install a state spending cap, a bonding cap, overtime accountability for state employees, and municipal mandate relief. Taking these steps would ensure that our children’s futures do not become an expendable part of the budget.
The takeaway from this should not be that we are doomed or that the only answer is to leave Connecticut. No, it is not too late to change direction. Senator Duff, the Norwalker, has no good answers for the actions of his doppelganger in Hartford who is the Senate Majority Leader and chief supporter of Dan Malloy’s, other than to say there’s “nothing he could have done.”
If I’m elected as your senator, I will get serious about instituting long-term structural changes and prioritize education spending. I insist that we can improve Connecticut’s fiscal condition without jeopardizing our children’s futures. You just have to vote to change direction this November.
Greg Ehlers of Darien is the Republican nominee opposing state Sen. Bob Duff in this November’s election for the 25th state Senate District seat.